Written by Susie Hawkins
It’s that time of the year when parents whose kids are college bound are busy preparing them for dorm or apartment life.
It’s a never ending list of needs—purchase bedding, clothing, new electronics, updated computers, phones, and a hundred other necessary items.
But the shopping will eventually be completed, and all the arrangements made. Our children may be equipped with worldly possessions but are they prepared spiritually?
As Christian parents, we must turn our attention to fervent prayer for this very thing.
Biblical lessons for university culture
College years can bring challenges to our children’s faith and lifelong convictions.
Can she withstand the inevitable temptations? Will he be faithful to church and/or a campus ministry? Will there be a strong Christian community to encourage her?
And these spiritual struggles are not just for students who are headed to college. They are also faced by those whose immediate plans don’t include leaving home. They are issues that frequently surface at young adult age, no matter location.
Here are three lessons that are especially relevant to young adults as they move into university culture.
1. God will be faithful to deliver from temptations.
How can we pray for this generation and encourage them as they face these tests in a culture that is so antagonistic to Christianity?
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Everyone is subject to temptation. It is a common human experience. But God promises us that he will equip us.
God is faithful. His nature is faithfulness, and we see his faithfulness demonstrated repeatedly throughout scripture. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
Because of his faithfulness, he will provide a “way of escape,” due to the threat of being “overtaken” by temptation. The word picture here is of a battle with an army surrounded by enemies. Suddenly the army sees an escape route through a mountain pass. The way of escape is provided, but the army (or person) being tempted, must take it.
God is ready to help us, but we must be searching for his provision.
There is another nuance to the “escape clause” in this verse. The “way of escape” may be the ability to “endure” and not give in to the temptation. In this case, the way of escape happens due to the Spirit-empowered endurance of the believer, as in 2 Timothy 4:17: “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” Peter adds: “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2 Peter 2:9).
We pray that God would make the way of escape clear and give our children the strength to choose it.
And we know that God will be faithful to deliver us from temptation.
2. God will be faithful to those who struggle with belief.
Do questions always indicate a loss of faith? Not necessarily.
If a Christian has never been confused or asked serious questions, then I wonder how much he has even thought about his faith. Seeking answers to spiritual questions is a crucial factor in spiritual growth, and as we all know, often surfaces during the college years.
Those of us raised in the church sometimes feel pressure not to doubt. But for many, there comes a time when simple answers no longer satisfy, and they walk through what Daniel Silliman calls “The Valley of the Shadow of Doubt.”
In the article “Christian Higher Education,” Silliman explains that it is very common for students to go through a period of spiritual instability during their college years. The questions that arise may be existential in nature or just an exploration of how to live out one’s faith.
The key to working through it is found in having mentors, small groups, and campus ministries. These resources can come alongside the student and thoughtfully answer his questions with respect, a sound knowledge of scripture, and sensitivity. Students must eventually own their own faith by knowing what they believe and why they believe it.
Periods of doubt, where one is honestly seeking answers to valid questions, can lead to a much more robust faith—although the process distresses parents to no end.
J.A. Block says: “We shouldn’t view their questions and doubt as a crisis, but merely as the new normal in an epistemologically unsteady age.”
In Jude’s succinct epistle, he urges followers of Christ to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3) and to “have mercy on those who doubt” (v. 22).
As we pray for our children, we can pray with confidence that God will walk with them through a season of doubting. And we can remember: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23).
God is big enough for their questions. He is faithful.
3. God will be faithful in times of uncertainty.
If we have ever lived in a time of unpredictability, it is now.
Pandemic, racial tensions, political divisions, financial crises—it is impossible to predict how things are going to play out in the near future.
In this confusing season, young adults are especially vulnerable when it comes to making wrong choices. They face making the most influential decisions in their life, such as choosing a college, a vocation, or finding a marriage partner.
And they now must do it in the context of unparalleled uncertainty regarding the future.
I recently read about author Daniel Henderson who was in a season of searching, and traveled to Calcutta to work at Mother Teresa’s home for the dying.
One day he met Mother Teresa, who asked him what she could do for him. He replied that he was looking for direction in his life and asked her to pray that he might have clarity. She laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
The truth is, we all want details of how our choices will affect us. We want to see ahead and have assurance that we are making the right call. But Scripture is full of people who followed the call of God, without knowing what was going to happen.
In Hebrews 11, we are presented with examples of those who trusted God, who had no idea of what their future would hold. Abraham among other Old Testament saints obediently followed God without clarity as to where he might lead or how they would arrive at what he had promised.
In the New Testament, Jesus said to his disciples: “Follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Each one’s path was unique and took him to places he could never have imagined. Daniel Henderson says: “Faith flourishes when we are trusting God at the deepest level with a willingness to let go of our insistence for clarity.”
Trust with open hands
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5–6).
God can be trusted. He will be faithful in times of uncertainty.
So we loosen our grip, open our hands, and release our young adults into God’s providential care, having prepared them the best we know how.
He is faithful to see them through temptations, doubts, and uncertainties. He will see us through as well.